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Will Capitol Hill Get a “Fashion Caucus”?

The Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce, has garnered support from some House lawmakers to form an official “Fashion Caucus.”

WASHINGTON — The Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce, a local trade association, has garnered support from some House lawmakers to form an official “Fashion Caucus” on Capitol Hill to give a voice to the industry’s issues and help shape policy.

Christine Brooks-Cropper, president of the group, which was incorporated here in November 2007, said it is spearheading an effort to create a caucus of lawmakers in Congress to vet the industry’s issues and ideally create a voting bloc to pass or defeat legislation impacting the national fashion industry.

So far, it has generated interest and support from Reps. Diane Watson (D., Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), Kendrick Meek (D., Fla.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D., Tex.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) and House Judiciary committee chairman John Conyers (D., Mich.), according to Brooks-Cooper.

“When there is a time where different legislation is before the representatives, and there are some in the fashion industry who are on the opposing side of it, that’s when a caucus can have briefings and forums to give us a better platform to get our issues and concerns across,” she said.

Brooks-Cropper has a background in business development, advocacy and strategic planning, having previously worked for the Washington city government under former mayor Anthony Williams from 2002 to 2005.

A Fashion Caucus would act like the existing House Textile Caucus, which has been effective in bringing together Southern textile state lawmakers to work on issues important to the domestic textile industry.

Brooks-Cropper said some of the top agenda items for a congressional caucus, which she hopes is formed by the end of the year, could potentially include creating a fashion endowment fund to help generate a fashion incubator and provide scholarships to fashion students, deliberating pending legislation known as the Design Piracy Prohibition Act that would provide three years of copyright protection for fashion designs and supporting efforts to save the New York City Garment District.

In addition to reaching out to lawmakers, Brooks-Cropper hopes to bring other national fashion industry trade and lobbying associations on board.

Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which opposes the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, said he plans to reach out to the GWFCC and discuss having the AAFA become a part of the caucus initiative.

Steven Kolb, executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, said the CFDA is not formally aligned with the Washington trade group, but is interested in the concept of a Fashion Caucus.

“If [it] was the right group that had an affinity to our industry and understands its impact both in terms of employment and jobs, and strengthening the American economy, then [a Fashion Caucus] is an interesting idea,” he said.